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Need to Know: An interesting week on tap for Redskins RB Kelley

Need to Know: An interesting week on tap for Redskins RB Kelley

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, November 29, 5 days before the Washington Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Off day

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 12; Panthers @ Redskins 20; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 25

Injuries of note:
Not practicing
: TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle)
Practicing: LS Nick Sundberg
There was no injury report issued after the abbreviated practice on Monday. The statuses above are based on media observations from the early part of practice. An official practice report will be issued on Wednesday.

Redskins observations as they enter the stretch run

—It will be an interesting week for running back Rob Kelley. In his first three starts he running back averaged 107 yards per game and 4.8 yards per attempt. He his first dud against the Cowboys, rushing for 37 yards on 14 carries, an average of 2.64. One bad game isn’t going to get him sent to the bench and the issues against Dallas certainly are not all his fault. But another 30-yard effort with an average of under 3 yards per carry will get the staff looking at the bench at Mack Brown and Matt Jones. Time is running short and he needs to display some consistency.

—Long snapper Nick Sundberg was back at practice on Monday, at least the early part of it. If he is ready to play that could open a roster spot if they feel good enough about Sundberg to let go of Rick Lovato, who has handled the duties the last two games. Jordan Hill, the defensive end the cut to make room for Lovato, is still available. Scot McCloughan is intrigued by Hill, who he sees as a good pass-rushing prospect, and we’ll see if his interest is sufficient to bring him back. (Update: Hill is now with the Jaguars so he is not available to the Redskins no matter how much McCloughan may like him.)

—What are the big-picture keys to the Redskins winning the three or four games they will need to get into the playoffs? Tress Way, who is 31st in net punting average, needs to create long fields for the other team and flip field position a couple of times per game. They need to add 3-4 points to their current average of 25.5 per game by either improving in the red zone or scoring more often from outside of the 20 (and that included scoring on some special teams or defensive returns). They need more takeaways; they have had just seven in their last eight games including three with no takeaways.

—If the Redskins offense can get up near 30 points per game over their remaining five they will have earned it. Of the five remaining opponents, four are ranked in the top half of the NFL in defensive DVOA. The Eagles (1st), Cardinals (3rd), and Giants (8th) are in the top fourth of the league.

—I think most Redskins fans will be surprised to learn that the team is eighth defensive sack percentage. In raw numbers, the team has 28 sacks. The opposing quarterback goes down 7.1 percent of the time he drops back. Ten different players have at least half a sack and Ryan Kerrigan (9 sacks) and Trent Murphy (7) are in the top 20 in the league in individual sacks.

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Dwayne Haskins believes he gives Washington best chance to win, even if Alex Smith can play

Dwayne Haskins believes he gives Washington best chance to win, even if Alex Smith can play

While many expect Dwayne Haskins to be Washington's quarterback in Week 1, head coach Ron Rivera has yet to formally name a starting quarterback and has preached "pure competition" between Haskins and Kyle Allen.

The battle for the job has the potential to take an interesting twist in the coming weeks if veteran Alex Smith is able to return from the active/PUP list. In a media session with local reporters on Monday, Rivera said Smith is "going to be in the throes of this competition" if he's able to return.

However, even if Smith is healthy enough to compete for the starting job, Haskins believes he's the best man for the job. 

"All respect for everyone in that room, but I feel like I give us the best opportunity," Haskins told Julie Donaldson, Washington's Senior VP of Media and Content. "I look forward to showing it."

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Haskins had his growing pains as a rookie but really started to show flashes of his potential towards the end of the season before an ankle injury prematurely ended his first season as a pro. Over his final six quarters, Haskins finished with 394 passing yards on a 72 percent completion rate with four touchdowns and zero turnovers. 

Since Rivera took over as head coach in January, he's challenged Haskins to take command of the job, and the quarterback has responded. Haskins has dropped close to 20 pounds this offseason and said he is in the best shape of his life. He's spent the bulk of his offseason training and learning from numerous NFL stars, most notably Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton and Odell Beckham Jr.

Although Rivera has yet to name Haskins the starter, he's taken notice of the 23-year-old's progress and has publicly praised him for it. In a media session last week, several comments the head coach made sounded as if he was ready to move in the direction with Haskins as QB1.

While Haskins and Smith may be directly competing with one another, the two have a strong relationship.

Haskins has said multiple times how much of a help Smith was to him as a rookie. On Monday, Haskins said he looks at Smith as a "mentor" to him.

"He's a great teammate," Haskins said. "Somebody in the meeting room that we look for answers and questions and everything he's been through in his long tenure as a professional quarterback in the NFL. He's someone I kind of look to as a mentor in that sense."

RELATED: MORGAN MOSES IS IMPRESSED WITH DWAYNE HASKINS 'KNOWING HE'S GOING TO BE NO. 1 QB'

Smith's journey is remarkable, and the fact that he's even close to playing after suffering the gruesome leg injury he had in November 2018 is already impressive enough within itself. And of the three quarterbacks, Smith is by far the most proven and experienced.

But Washington is currently in a rebuild, and Rivera has said multiple times that the 2020 season will be crucial in determining who he sees as core players on his roster. So, starting a 35-year-old Smith over Haskins, a second-year player who the team invested a first-round pick in just one year ago, wouldn't make much sense.

Yet, if Smith does end up being healthy enough to compete for the job, Haskins is ready to embrace the challenge.

"I'm extremely happy and excited for Alex. Having watched him train last year and him just getting into the position to try and play this year...I can tell how much work he's put in," Haskins said. "I'm excited for him. Hopefully he gets back to where he needs to be, and I look forward to competing with him and everything of that nature."

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Washington Football Team has noticed the Red Wolves movement from fans

Washington Football Team has noticed the Red Wolves movement from fans

The Washington Football Team has announced that it will not have a new moniker until the 2021 offseason at the earliest, but that hasn't stopped fans from giving their input on what the franchise's new name should be.

As part of the process for selecting a new name, Washington has asked for fans to send in their suggestions. On Monday, the team's official account shared a submission from one fan named Sarah, who is in favor of the name 'Red Wolves.'

"Once I saw it, I really fell in love. I really love the idea of Washington Red Wolves," Sarah wrote. "I have been a fan of the team since I was born, so that's over 26 years, and my dad has been a season ticket holder for a while. Can't wait for what's next."

Out of all the potential name suggestions, Red Wolves is the suggestion that has arguably gained the biggest following amongst the Washington fanbase - at least on social media.

In polls taken by NBC Sports Washington, the Washington Post and popular fan account formerly known as @RedskinsToday_, Red Wolves was the overwhelming favorite.

RELATED: MAKING THE CASE FOR RED WOLVES AS WASHINGTON'S NEW TEAM NAME

Monday's post from Washington was the fourth fan submission the team has shared on its official Twitter account. However, the post on Monday was a little different than the first three.

The suggestion from Sarah was the first post the franchise shared that suggested a specific name; the first three fan responses Washington shared were generic and didn't have one individual favorite name.

The fans have made their voice heard, as Washington has received over 5,000 responses of potential name suggestions. 

While this may mean a whole bunch of nothing (this is just Twitter, after all), Washington has now officially acknowledged the Red Wolves movement from fans.

And for those that desperately want Washington Red Wolves to be the team's name from 2021 and on, that's good news no matter what way you look at it.

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